Carry On, Kari

March 18, 2008

New graphic novel

I took along HarperCollins India’s new release, Kari, to pass time on a train journey. By page two I was gripped, stunned by the dark story of a heroine whose ‘twin soul’ — her lover — has gone away, leaving Kari alone with her distress in the urban jungle of her ‘Smog City’.

Kari

First-time author/artist Amruta Patil’s protagonist Kari finds her feet slowly after heartbreak, urban life and workaday realities sucking at her every step. She makes of herself a superhero — sans tights, plus PVC. En route, Kari becomes a ‘boatman’ rowing to her own rhythm, ferrying other passersby across the sea of metropolitan life. Which pushes Kari along on her own journey of reconciling with the hand she’s dealt.

The graphic novel is still a young genre in India. Twenty-something year-old Amruta Patil is our first graphic storyteller who happens to be a woman, entering the space with this bold, mature work.

Kari does for the Indian graphic novel what Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis did for the genre in Europe, addressing difficult issues in a style that’s deceptively direct. Telling her story through strong, flat, nuanced outlines rather than a clutter of detail, her reality is painted in unflinching black-and-white, the occasional splashes of colour more likely to be dreams or illusion.

Move over, manga! Comic-book superheroes, scatter! Visual storytelling just came of age in India — in a woman’s hands, fittingly.

Kari, by Amruta Patil, HarperCollins India. Price: Rs 295. Out in bookstores nationwide.

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